Albion Island Vortex revived – Iain Sinclair’s Histories and Hauntings

Legendary London writer Iain Sinclair takes us on a tour of his exhibition, Histories and Hauntings, at Swedenborg House in Central London. Histories and Hauntings was partly a re-staging of an exhibition that Iain Sinclair organised at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1974 with Brian Catling, Renchi Bicknell, Sam Torrance and others, Albion Island Vortex, but with the addition of subsequent works that continue the themes of that highly influential show.

Iain Sinclair - Albion Island Vortex
Stephen McNeilly and Iain Sinclair at Swedenborg House - December 2023
Stephen McNeilly and Iain Sinclair at Swedenborg House
Iain Sinclair, Histories and Hauntings - Swedenborg House
Iain Sinclair, Histories and Hauntings - Swedenborg House
Iain Sinclair, Histories and Hauntings - Swedenborg House

Filmed by John Rogers December 2023.

Thanks to Iain Sinclair, Stephen McNeilly, and Victor Rees

Walking Swedenborg’s London screening

Screening of John Rogers film Walking Swedenborg's London at Swedenborg Hall, Bloomsbury 7th September 2023

Back on 7th September saw a wonderful event at Swedenborg Hall in Bloomsbury with a screening + Q&A of my film, Walking the visionary London of Emanuel Swedenborg. Back on a freezing January morning, with Iain Sinclair and Stephen McNeilly we retraced the footsteps of the hugely influential 18th Century scientist, philosopher, mystic and theologian. London played a huge role in the Swedenborg story, with Swedenborg Hall in Bloomsbury continuing his legacy.

Our walk started in Warner Street, Clerkenwell where Swedenborg had his most famous vision in a Chop House. We then walked on along the course of the River Fleet to Bakers Yard / Cold Bath Square where Swedenborg died in 1772. From here we continued along Saffron Hill and Hatton Garden to Fetter Lane, the site of the Moravian Chapel that Swedenborg attended. Our Swedenborg walk took us along Fleet Street and up Ludgate Hill to Paternoster Square linking together a series of locations associated with Swedenborg’s publishing and writing career.
We then headed out to East London, passing along Leman Street, Cable Street, past Wilton’s Music Hall to Swedenborg Gardens where Swedenborg was buried in the Swedish Church, and the whole story of Swedenborg’s head, which deserves a book in its own right.

Iain Sinclair, Stephen McNeilly and John Rogers at Swedenborg Hall 7th September 2023

Watching the icy clouds of breath in the film offered some faint relief from the sweltering temperatures in the hall. The discussion was illuminating as ever with Iain Sinclair and Stephen McNeilly. The bust of Swedenborg ever present looming over our shoulders, and I was tickled to discover that it was modelled on the wrong mummified head.

Iain Sinclair, Stephen McNeilly and John Rogers at Swedenborg Hall 7th September 2023

Spirits of London Halloween / Samhain walk

This is the time of year when the veil between this world and the otheworld is more porous allowing spirits and other entities to walk abroad amongst us. So I stalked the streets around Holborn and Covent Garden seeing what I could detect.

I passed by the Kingsway Tram Tunnel then strolled along Sicilian Avenue to Swedenborg House. Emmanuel Swedenborg believed he’d been granted the gift of being able to visit heaven and hell at will and commune with this he found there. The society created in his honour is still active in Bloomsbury (I’ve frequented its marvellous hall myself on occasion). Drifting past the Princess Louise I wander down Great Queen Street to Freemasons’ Hall – which seemed apt and if nothing else its grand art deco architecture is worthy of the theme. This Halloween walk then visits one of the most haunted theatres in London (or so they say), Theatre Royal Dury Lane and having done a shift or two in the bar there in a former life I can tell you that the staff are keen to vacate the building after the show and the old timers there all had a tale to tell of their ghostly encounters.
The spooky trail ends with two locations from Ben Aaronovitch’s marvellous Rivers of London book – The Royal Opera House where the book reaches its climax, and St. Paul’s Actors Church on Covent Garden Piazza where Peter Grant spots his first ghost at the beginning of the story.

Happy All Hallows Eve to you!!